Middle East countries continue expat evacuations as global coronavirus death toll passes 70,000

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Medical personnel speak to a Lebanese national, residing in Saudi Arabia, in the lobby of a hotel, where they will be housed, in the capital Beirut. (AFP)
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Every number mentioned is a human life and every victim leaves behind them people who have to grieve in a complete lockdown. (File/Enrique Ortiz/AFP)
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Updated 08 April 2020

Middle East countries continue expat evacuations as global coronavirus death toll passes 70,000

DUBAI: Governments across the Middle East began further expat repatriations as the coronavirus death toll reached 69,444 on Monday.
On Sunday a chartered Emirates Airline plane flew out 345 British citizens who were unable to return home after the closure of UAE airports to international traffic on March 24.
Abu Dhabi also sent a second plane carrying stranded Lebanese expats abroad due to the virus on Sunday afternoon. Lebanese Minister of Tourism and Social Affairs, Ramzi Moucharafieh, said those who returned will be quarantined in the Lancaster hotels chain in Beirut’s Raouche area.

Monday, April 6 (All times in GMT)

20:00 - Egypt announces 149 new cases, 7 more deaths and 259 recoveries from the coronavirus.

19:30 - in Rome reports on how as the national lockdown in Italy due to the coronavirus pandemic is set to go on at least until Easter, if not longer, Italians are no longer singing on their balconies. READ HIS FULL ACCOUNT HERE.

19:00 - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to the intensive care unit of a London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms worsened. FULL STORY HERE.

16:54 - Turkey’s death toll from the new coronavirus rose by 75 to total 649, and new confirmed cases rose by 3,148 to bring the country’s total to 30,217, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.
He said 21,400 tests for the COVID-19 disease had been performed in Turkey in the last 24 hours.

16:20 - Kuwait placed a full lockdown on two areas and extended its partial curfew by two hours to run from 5 pm (1400 GMT) till 6 am effective Monday until further notice, a statement from the cabinet said.

It also extended a previously enacted suspension of work for all ministries and government institutions by two weeks until April 26 as precautionary measure against coronavirus.

16:25 - Qatar reports 228 new coronavirus cases, with 131 cases recovered.

16:20 - Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy rose by 636 on Monday, more than 100 higher than the previous daily tally of 525, the Civil Protection Agency said, but the number of new cases fell sharply.

The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 came to 16,523, the highest in the world.

16:00 - 103 more coronavirus cases were recorded in Algeria on Monday, meaning the total in the country has risen to 1,423.

15:35 - More than 5,000 people who tested positive for coronavirus have now died in Britain, official figures showed Monday, with a latest daily toll of 439.

“As of 5pm on 5 April, of those hospitalized in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus 5,373 have died,” the health ministry said in a tweet.

15:00 - German chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union faces its biggest test since its inception and any possible easing of restrictions will be done step by step to not overwhelm the health system.

She also said Europe must develop “self-sufficiency” in producing masks “as something that we learn out of this pandemic” of COVID-19.

14:15 - The mother of Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola has died after contracting the coronavirus, according to a club tweet on Monday afternoon. FULL STORY.

13:40 - More than 20,000 Pakistani workers stuck in the United Arab Emirates are seeking to return home, as the Gulf Arab state tightens restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As the virus has spread, the UAE has gradually increased curbs, including imposing a nationwide curfew, suspending passenger flights and putting Dubai in a lockdown.

13:25 – The UAE reported 277 new cases of coronavirus, 23 recoveries and one death, bringing the country’s tallies to 2,076 total cases, 167 recoveries and 11 deaths.

13:15 - England’s hospital death toll from the coronavirus rose by 403 to 4,897, the National Health Service said.

The health service said 15 of the 403 patients had no known underlying health conditions.

12:15 - Riot police wielding batons used force to break up a protest by Pakistani doctors and medical staff against a lack of gear to protect against coronavirus, arresting dozens of medics who say the government has failed to deliver promised supplies. Reuters journalists at the scene, in the southwestern city of Quetta, saw hundreds of doctors and paramedics, some in face masks and scrubs, chanting their demands. Some were dragged off by riot police in helmets, armed with rifles and batons.

10:25 – Lebanon confirmed 14 new coronavirus cases and one death, bringing totals to 541 infected, and 19 fatalities.

10:05 – Iran’s total number of coronavirus infections topped 60,500 and the death toll from the outbreak reached 3,739, the country’s health ministry said.

09:40 – Spain’s coronavirus cases rose to 135,032 from 130,759 on Sunday, while the death toll has reached to 13,055 from 12,418 a day earlier.

09:30 – Iraqi Kurdistan has reported 41 new coronavirus cases in Erbil.

09:15 – The Kuwait health ministry confirmed109 new cases of coronavirus, increasing the total to 665.




Above, a police man wearing a mask stands by flight information board at the Kuwait International Airport Terminal 4 on April 3, 2020. (AFP)

08:50 – Indonesia confirmed 218 new coronavirus cases, the biggest daily jump since the first cases were announced a month ago, taking the total number of infections to 2,491, a Health Ministry official said.

08:45 – Bahrain said that 19 people were released from quarantine.

08:40 – The Philippine health ministry reported 11 new coronavirus deaths, bringing total to 163, and 414 new coronavirus infections, bringing total to 3,660.

08:20 – Palestine said there were nine new coronavirus infections, with a total of 246.

07:45 – Saudi state TV reported that 176 Americans have left Dammam for Washington.

07:45 – Russia’s coronavirus case tally has risen to 6,343 in the past 24 hours, a record daily increase of 954, the country’s crisis response center said..

07:35 – Morocco recorded 92 new coronavirus infections, total has risen to 1,113 cases.

07:10 – Israel reported an increase in COVID-19 deaths, bringing toll to 51. There are currently 8,611 confirmed infections in the country.

07:05 – Singapore announced S$5.1 billion ($3.55 billion) in additional economic spending such as wage support, waiver of levies and one-off payments to combat the coronavirus pandemic. READ THE STORY

07:05 – Saudi Arabia has confirmed 61 new cases of coronaviurs, increasing toll to 2,463.




Above, the old town of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah looks deserted after a lockdown was implmented to stem the spread of coronavirus. (AFP)

06:30 – The Omani Ministry of Health reported 33 new cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total number in the country to 331. 

06:00 - The chairman of the property developer Emaar, Mohamed Ali Alabbar, told staff he will take a 100% pay cut during the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s part of what he called in an email to all 6,600 employees, a “new company-wide salary structure,” that will see most take a cut of varying amounts, until further notice.

04:55 – Thailand reported 51 new coronavirus cases and three more deaths, according to a spokesman for the government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

00:15 – Morocco has recorded 31 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 1,021 with 70 deaths and 76 recoveries.

Sunday, April 5 (All times in GMT)

20:35 – Tunisia has confirmed 21 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 574.

19:40 – Saudi Arabia has detected 17 new coronavirus cases, increasing the total to 2,402 with 488 recoveries.

18:35 – Egypt has announced 103 new coronavirus cases, seven deaths and six recoveries. The country’s totals are currently at 1,173 infections, 247 recoveries and 78 deaths.

18:30 – The UAE government is freeing up more cash to boost the local economy after it cut by half the reserve requirement for demand deposits, giving local lenders a wider latitude in managing their money amid the coronavirus pandemic.

18:25 – Jordan has confirmed 21 new COVID-19 cases and 36 recoveries, increasing the total to 345 infected persons and 110 recovered.

17:25 – The Lebanese Embassy in Paris on Sunday said it was providing monetary support to students stuck in France after the country imposed a lockdown on March 17 curb the spread of coronavirus.


Ethiopia pours water on Egypt’s Nile rights claim ahead of crunch dam talks

Updated 6 min 20 sec ago

Ethiopia pours water on Egypt’s Nile rights claim ahead of crunch dam talks

  • The tripartite negotiations, which have been stalled for several months, are close to resuming

CAIRO: Ethiopia has opened the floodgates to further controversy over a giant dam scheme by rejecting Egypt’s historic claims to the waters of the Nile.

Ahead of the anticipated resumption of stalled talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project, two Ethiopian ministers poured water over the Egyptian stance on river rights.

In a speech to political party representatives and religious leaders regarding the latest developments in GERD negotiations, Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Seleshi Bekele said the talks, also involving Sudan, were being “clouded by Egypt’s tendency to recall and confirm the so-called (historic rights) in water, which can never be accepted by Ethiopia or Nile-sharing countries.”

Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gedu Andargachew added that his country’s position was firm with regard to utilizing its water resources in a fair way “in accordance with the agreed cooperation principles and not causing any major damage.”

Meanwhile, Ethiopian religious leaders have called on the government to press ahead with the construction of the dam while negotiating with Nile-sharing countries.

Ethiopia’s official news agency ENA, reported that a statement issued during a press conference by the Ethiopian inter-religious council of seven institutions, “underlined Ethiopia’s natural right in developing the Nile.” The council also called for the resumption of tripartite discussions.

Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Patriarch Abune Mathias said the government needed to continue with construction of the dam on the basis of mutual understanding with upstream countries and without any foreign intervention.

Mathias pointed out that the Ethiopian people had played a big part in funding the project in the hope of improving their living conditions and seeing the development for their country, adding that work should carry on “for the sake of the people” without causing any damage to Nile-sharing countries.

Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, said that Ethiopia had “the right to develop its rivers in order to provide electricity for millions of its citizens, just like Egypt did. Egyptians are provided with electricity better than the Ethiopians. In our situation, students and families do not have electricity.

“Upstream countries must know that the Ethiopian people do not have the intention to harm Egypt or Sudan,” he added.

Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council Secretary-General Sheikh Qassem Mohammed Tag El-Din also agreed that Ethiopia should carry on with building the dam “in the best interest of its people who are living in darkness and who do not have electricity.

“Concerning the dam, we need to stand together in harmony and even make sacrifices if this is what it takes to complete the project,” he added.

The tripartite negotiations, which have been stalled for several months, are close to resuming.

The Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation announced that two separate meetings were recently held between Sudanese Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Yasser Abbas and his counterparts from Egypt and Ethiopia, Mohammed Abdel-Ati and Bekele, respectively.

The ministry added that two members of the delegation from each country attended the meetings which had been set up to pave the way for fresh GERD negotiations.

In a statement, Sudan’s irrigation ministry said that the ministerial meetings had followed recent talks held between Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok and his Egyptian and Ethiopian counterparts.

Abbas Sheraqy, professor of water resources at Cairo University’s faculty of African studies, said Ethiopia’s attempts to return to the negotiation table to settle the GERD issue had swung between resumption and manipulation.

He pointed out that Ethiopia was ready to resume GERD discussions despite having failed to attend the final day of the last round of negotiations in Washington in February last year, when it was due to sign an agreement, drafted by the US in collaboration with the World Bank, on the filling and operation of the dam.

Ethiopia’s U-turn did “not befit a sovereign state that is a UN member under the pretext that it needed more consultations, as if nine years of negotiations were not enough,” he added.

Sheraqy underlined the need to resume the talks in Washington and not to allow Ethiopia to cancel them which, he said, was its precondition to resuming them. He added that Ethiopia recently called for allowing downstream countries to attend the negotiations under the umbrella of the African Union.

Addis Ababa, he noted, was aiming to waste time and further complicate the GERD issue and was pushing Egypt into a new issue with downstream countries.

Egypt has stressed during its negotiations with Ethiopia the need to maintain its historic rights to the Nile waters. A 1929 treaty (and a subsequent one in 1959) gave Egypt and Sudan rights to nearly all of the Nile waters. The document also gives Egypt veto powers over any projects by upstream countries that would affect its share of the waters.

Ethiopia launched construction in 2011 on the Blue Nile in the northern Ethiopian highlands, from where 85 percent of the Nile’s waters flow.

One of Egypt’s main worries is that if the water flow diminishes, it could affect Lake Nasser, the reservoir further downriver, behind Egypt’s Aswan Dam.

Ethiopia said that 73 percent of the GERD project had been completed. Its government is to start deliberations within a month on a date to start filling the dam.